The Simple Ministry of Presence

Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what He taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:39-42

I love this story, and have had friends throw it in my face time and time again. How frequently am I a Martha, well-meaning, but hustling through one-hundred different obligations, never stopping to abide?

Every day I struggle with the temptation to do more and more to make everything perfect, thinking that if I do more, be more, know more, that I will please those around me and my God. I want to make the best grades, dress perfectly, have the most likes on instagram - the list goes on. None of those things are bad, but if those are my goals, I’m missing the point.

If we, like Mary, are intentionally sitting at Jesus’ feet, we will have so much more to pour out to those around us.

I love this quote from Henri Nouwen’s book, Gracias, and challenge you to think about times that you can have what he refers to as a “simple ministry of presence.”

“More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, throw water, and be known as someone who wants to live with them. It is a privilege to have the time to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not as simple as it seems.

My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups, and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets. It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause, and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress.

But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them, but you truly love them.”

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